[DODS #5 spoilers] Why Stephen and Clea's kiss was so meaningful
While I’m thoroughly writing a review to analyze all the aspects of the last issue, I offer a review on Clea and Stephen’s relationship.
Their relationship had a few ups and downs throughout the years, but they always managed to come back together, until Sorcerer Supreme #67 (1994), in which they both agree their respective struggles need to be addressed first.
At that time, Stephen was splitted into three and had lost his mantle of Sorcerer Supreme to Salomé, while Clea was trying to overcome Dormammu's reign with her rebellion in the Dark Dimension. They were together no longer but they both acknowledge that they still love each other.
For some reason, though, after Stephen gets his mantle back and defeats Salomé, they only manage to see each other again when the curse of the Defenders/The Order kicks in and turns them into evil. I'm not sure it could be considered their "divorce" since Stephen was not himself.
This was the last time they see each other and their relationship was never addressed again, even though the Defenders promised to help her against Dormammu. Stephen will spend the next years blaming himself for letting her go, and the guilt will always consume him.
Said guilt and regret will lead Stephen to several one-night stands and failed relationships, never being able to find what he has lost in Clea. Some of them had the opportunity to endure and be good for him (for instance, Linda), but his mental health was far too compromised.
Stephen's mental health and tendency to be self-destructive will hit the lowest stage during v4, when his regret and guilt will drive him to perform dangerous spells, and since it was established that magic has a cost, his depression will manifest in the shape of Mr. Misery.
That's when Clea will once more appear in his life just to demand a closure (and a divorce). Oddly, this issue portrays Clea as someone who doesn't love Stephen as a husband anymore, but it's clear that Stephen still loves her with all his heart, even though he won't admit it.
She will come back to his life again during Damnation, first as a friend so he can talk about his friendship with Zelma. But when he was at his worst, all alone and injured, a demon deceived him, pretending to be Clea. And this is the moment we see how much she means to him. This is the key moment to understand that Stephen's tendecy to be self-destructive and reckless is just a way to cope with his guilt and regret and self-worth, and that he's willing to die if that means that he deserves to be happy with her again.
Clea will reasure Stephen that she doesn't mind his friendship with Zelma, which is pretty important to Stephen because he's really giving his best not to mess up with Zelma in a romantic sense. He's trying to prove that he's not weak to succumb to little displays of affection.
And although Stephen did end up ruining his relationship with Zelma, it was not because of romantic feelings, but his tendency to be overprotective and keep people in the dark. Wong also leaves him, which will definitely bring more questions about his self-worth.
Lastly, although I do not agree with Waid's interpretation of Stephen, we'll see that Clea will briefly return to his life and we'll learn that they both have feelings for each other. But Stephen will be forced to erase her memories in order to fulfill his deal with Mephisto.
Which will finally lead us to DODS, with Clea gaining her memories back only to find out that Stephen is dead. Only to find out that, after 30 years of yearning and unspoken feelings, they still love each other. It is indeed a long-awaited and sad kiss. But their love is definitely stronger.
Note: I deliberately ignored Fearless Defenders for I refuse to acknowledge that that atrocity is canon. For more info about why Stephen is a being of love and how love drives his actions, here's my article about it.
Concept for a potential Wong miniseries (working title would be “Wong, Sorcerer Supreme”):
Picking up right after the end of “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, Wong goes back to Xialing’s underground fighting ring in Macau. Since Xialing is now running the Ten Rings, Jon Jon has taken full control of the club, although not much has changed. Wong is still the reigning champion, defeating all his opponents with ease.
One night, Jon Jon tells Wong that he has a special opponent for him. Apparently, it’s another magic user. Wong is suspicious about this since, as Sorcerer Supreme, he keeps track of magic practitioners around the world. When Wong enters the ring, we see who his opponent is. As another returning character from Marvel Television, the opponent is revealed to be Nico Minoru from “Runaways”:
The two fight and, despite a good show from Nico, Wong wins. After the match, Wong meets with Nico to get to know her better. Without getting too deep into “Runaways” canon, Nico says that she’s been on her own since the Snap/Blip years and that she does cage matches to pay the bills. When Wong asks if she has any friends or family, Nico says she’s lost contact with them (it’s implied that there was a falling out between the Runaways that led to Nico going off on her own).
Feeling sorry for Nico and impressed by her magic skills that she displayed during their match, Wong invites Nico back to Kamar-Taj. He offers to train her and help her realize her full potential as a sorceress. Nico makes a joke about this feeling like a Harry Potter fanfiction (“A magic school, huh? I’ll consider it as long as you put me in Ravenclaw.”)
But then, Nico thinks about how shitty her situation is; she’s broke, alone, and she’s doing cage matches just to pay the bills. She then accepts Wong’s offer.
The rest of the series is focused on Wong mentoring Nico. You can think of the show as a Hawkeye role reversal; instead of a grumpy, moody mentor (Clint) and a happy-go-lucky mentee (Kate), it’s a happy-go-lucky mentor (Wong) and a grumpy, moody mentee (Nico). Or just, Uncle Iroh and Prince Zuko.
Absolutely obsessed with the fact that Wong went from being portrayed as a serious, no-nonsense character in Doctor Strange to a character who:
Routinely fights (and wins) in an underground fight club just for fun
Is friends with the Abomination, even giving them tips for their next fight
Is willing to go sing karaoke with two strangers he met probably less than an hour beforehand and gets into it